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Assess the Usefulness of the Functionalist View of the Family (24 Marks)

  • Date Submitted: 03/27/2014 11:19 AM
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Assess the usefulness of the functionalist view of the family. (24 marks)
Functionalists believe that society is based on a value consensus – a set of shared norms and values – into which society socialises its members. This enables them to cooperate harmoniously to meet society’s needs and achieve shared goals. They view the family unit as a construct that fulfils important functions and keeps society running smoothly.

Functionalists believe the family plays a vital role in keeping society running smoothly and maintaining social stability. In order to do so, the family must perform four essential functions for society and its members. Murdock (1949) argues that it is the nuclear family that performs these roles; stable satisfaction of the sex drive as it prevents social disruption, reproduction of the next generation, socialisation of the young and preparing them for adult society, satisfaction of members economic needs.

Functionalists see society in a biological analogy view. They see each institution of society (family, education etc.) as a vital ‘organ’ that is crucial in maintaining the ‘body’ of society. In the same way as a body needs its organs to function, society needs family and education to function fully and cooperate harmoniously. Parsons believes that the family is responsible for the primary socialisation of the young; teaching children basic skills, norms and values that are needed for society.

However, the functionalist theory of the family is not so useful as it ignores conflict (e.g. the dark side of the family), oppression, and it fails to explain the extent of family diversity.

Parsons view of instrumental and expressive roles is also very outdated. It is a theory that was developed in the 1950’s. Therefore, the position of men and women in society has changed drastically, and men and women are now considered more equal in modern society with the introduction of the ‘new man’ and equal pay rights etc. This means that women...


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